A ruling by the Shilin District Court on Saturday to detain a 20-year-old man who allegedly made an online threat to burn down a publishing company that had repeatedly rejected his submissions sparked debate over whether the court’s move was warranted.
The man, surnamed Cho (卓), was arrested on Friday night after reportedly threatening in Facebook posts to attack Gaea Books and “behead” its editor-in-chief.
Pictures of gasoline barrels and knives said to be on his Facebook page raised concerns among other netizens, and he was reported to the police on Sunday last week.
Yeh Yu-lan (葉毓蘭), an associate professor at Central Police University, said allowing prosecutors to detain Cho, who is studying at a vocational school, demonstrated the inconsistency of judges in handling similar or even more serious cases.
She cited the case of Chang Te-cheng (張德正), who allegedly rammed his truck into the Presidential Office Building in Taipei in January, in which judges decided against ordering Chang detained on the grounds that he had little chance of fleeing due to the injuries he suffered in the incident.
Questioning the judgment of judges, Yeh said they have adopted different standards in dealing with acts of violence as in the January attack and menacing posts by a student without a criminal record.
She urged the Judicial Yuan to create standards to better guide judges and prevent inconsistencies in their rulings.
That view was echoed by lawyer Lin Chun-feng (林俊峰), citing judges’ decision to grant bail to Andrew Chiang (蔣友青), the grandson of former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), after he allegedly made threats against Taipei American School last year.
However, a judge said that the detention ruling could act as a deterrent against similar acts at a time when online threats are increasing.
The judge also said that ordering Cho to remain detained was justified because of suspicions he may have had two accomplices who are now on the run.
The judge said posting targeted menacing remarks on Facebook constituted a criminal act.
Cho has reportedly admitted the allegations, but argued he was goaded by Internet users into being provocative to get attention and said: “I would actually never do that.”
The student said he was “willing to apologize for being so provocative.”